How Dairy Cows Fuel up Like Marathon Runners

If livestock were Olympic athletes, dairy cows would be the marathon runners. Just like the time and distance marathon runners achieve, dairy cows produce milk 24 hours a day, during their lactation period.

Dairy cows also have an off-season. They produce milk about 300 days a year and take a two-month vacation to relax and prepare for the birth of their calves. To achieve marathon-worthy milk production, superior nutrition is key at all stages – whether cows are producing milk or in their off-season.

On most dairy farms, cows are milked twice a day, and on some dairies three times a day, so it’s important they eat high quality feeds to fuel their bodies in the great race that is milk production.

Here are three things you probably didn’t know about dairy cow nutrition:

  1. Dairy cows’ diet plans are carefully planned by nutritionists. It may come as a surprise, but just like Olympic athletes, dairy cows eat healthier than most people. Farmers use dietary plans created by livestock nutritionists to make sure cows receive the nutrients needed to fuel their bodies and stay healthy at all times.
  2. Cows can eat the foods we cannot and turn them into dairy foods we enjoy. Cows are ruminants, which means they have a special stomach with four sections. Ruminants can process grasses, also known as forages, and other feeds that human bodies cannot. Dairy cows use the energy from the food they eat to convert it into naturally amazing dairy foods – for us to enjoy!
  3. Just like star athletes have different training stages, dairy cows have different stages of milking, and they all require different nutrient levels. Nutritionists and farmers use modern technology to make sure each cow receives the perfect balance of protein, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Healthy cows are happier cows and produce better quality milk.

Dairy farmers and livestock nutritionists work together to give cows optimum nutrition for the great race of milk production, to make sure we are provided with the naturally amazing dairy foods we love.

Learn more about cow care.

By Susan Allen

Susan grew up on a farm in northwest Oklahoma and has over 30 years of experience working in agriculture. She has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2007 and has worked with schools, health and wellness professionals and farmers. When she's not working, Susan is usually helping one of her kids with a 4-H project. Learn more about Susan

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